The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA) and the refugee communities in the Gambia recently commemorated the World Refugee Day at a ceremony held at Sibanor village in Bintang Karanai District, West Coast Region. UNHCR marks World Refugee Day each year on June 20th, to shed light on the courage and resilience of families forced to flee war or persecution. The theme for the celebration was, “UNHCR stands together with Refugees”.
Stepping in for the Minister of Interior, the Commissioner of The Gambia Commission for Refugees (GCR) Jammeh Ceesay noted that the theme for this year’s commemoration calls for combined efforts to give attention and support to refugee situations and programmes in consultation with the UNHCR and other partners.
“Welcoming refugees is a core part of who we are as a nation, as it reflects our national values. Over the years, The Gambia accepted refugees from around the sub- region and elsewhere, and their journeys reflect some of the tragedies our world has known this century,” he added.
According to him, displacement often means they become separated from their families or careers, and make them more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence.
Ceesay said the Ministry and The Gambia Commission for Refugees have created a robust protection system for refugees and persons of concerns. “We provide support to refugees to get on their feet during their first weeks and months, and move quickly toward becoming independent and productive members of their new communities,” he stated.
He emphasised that refugee protection and refugee rights are not only issues of concern to Governments, politicians and international organisations. “In today’s globalised world, they are also of concern for all of us, for individual citizens, non-governmental organisations, the corporate world and others”.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje, the UNDP Resident Coordinator, said every year UNHCR seeks to find a glimmer of hope in the global statistics. “We publish to show that the world is finding solutions to help heal the trauma refugees are living through on a daily basis. The number, complexity and protracted nature of today’s conflicts mean that forced displacement has now reached a level unprecedented since the founding of the UN itself, substantially over 60 million people are now uprooted around the world”, she stated.
The UNDP Resident Coordinator further lamented that against this tragic backdrop, divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, and disturbing levels of xenophobia, are together threatening the international agreements which protect those forced to flee war or persecution. She said instead of burden sharing, we see borders closing, instead of political will there is political paralysis, and that humanitarian organisations like hers are left to deal with the consequences, while at the same time struggling to save lives on the limited budgets.
The Executive Director of The Gambia Food and Nutrition Association (GAFNA), Yusufa J. Gomez, said GAFNA has been in partnership with UNHCR for more than a decade now and has since been implementing projects geared towards the welfare of refugees residing in 81 villages in the Fonis, West Coast Region and Greater Banjul Area.
The commemoration of the World Refugee Day, he affirmed, demonstrates the strong bond of partnership and support that exist between UNHCR and other development partners in the drive to making refugees here feel at home since their arrival in The Gambia.
“It is evident that the majority of these refugees are faced with enormous challenges ranging from livelihood, health, social protection and so forth after departing their country of origin in emergency situations,” he stated.
Gomez affirmed that GAFNA as a national development NGO has built partnership with UNHCR to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees in order to reduce their vulnerability and improve their socio-economic status as they continue to live in The Gambia.
Among the several speakers were the Alfusainey Jarjue district chief ; Musa Colley and George Jatta.
by Alhagie Babou Jallow &